Are events primarily repair or education opportunities?

For me community repair events are about empowering others to regain control of their devices (as I explained in my profile).

I have been surprised to hear some FixFest participants talking about offering a service to customers. This is a different position compared to using the repair activity as an education opportunity for participants.

These opposing views can also seen in the discussion about Co-creating a post-lockdown live event protocol.

@Clare_Seek also pointed out that the free service position risks creating an unfair competition with professional repair shops with whom we should be allies.

I would be interested to hear more particularly from those who consider events primarily to provide a repair service to their customers. What is your motivation for that position?


I largely agree, we certainly don’t want to be taking trade from professional repairers. But that said, a lot of repairs we see would probably never go to a professional repairer even if there was a good one just round the corner, perhaps because it just wouldn’t be economic. The punter is all set to throw it away and buy a new one and brings it to us as a last resort. Or maybe it’s a treasured item such as Grandma’s table lamp, and the punter would keep it non-functional rather than spending maybe £30 to get it fixed, expecially if no fix, no fee wasn’t offered. Or it’s an odd fault that you or I would enjoy as a challenge but a pro would have to charge a hefty fee to suss out, with no guarantee of success.

While I would love to see everyone I work with learn something, and ideally go away with the skills to fix the same problem again, many simply don’t have the interest, patience or aptitude, in which case I’m happy simply to save a bit of e-waste.


Hi Panda - we chatted a bit on this topic didn’t we on the event last week - the Crediton Repair Cafe events do try to be educational, but, but, our visitors need stuff repaired - for financial reasons, practical reasons, emotional reasons. Bear in mind our proportion of electronics repairs is quite low - 10% or less, all laptops really. Yes these could be repaired by our excellent local computer shop, but I suspect that the people who can afford do that have already done that, so our visitors really do need our help. And our repairs do avoid disposal/recycling which is another objective.

Plus from a personal perspective I’m shielding so I don’t see any way I’m going to be attending a physical event until I’ve preferably been vaccinated, or less desirable I’ve had Covid.

TL;DR - I’m torn but angling towards a short/medium-term move to more ‘repair service’, but in the end it depends on our volunteers.

Update: what Philip said.


My experience with our repair cafe concurs with Philip’s view particularly

Most of the repairs I simply do but if someone shows an interest or for example a youngster would like to learn more then I’ll happily add some educational detail.

The other bonus it gives us a connection and one of my standard comments is “if it’s electronic and it doesn’t work or is not wanted then I’ll take it for spare parts and bits”. My spare box is filling up well and some electronic parts I can re-use for other repairs. One common re-use is those little mains power supplies (wall warts I call them). I’ve handed a number out to replace failed ones (selecting correct voltages and current capability etc etc and always PAT tested).

To expand on Ian’s comment about being a repair service, it has to be so with mains items because opening and checking out things like LCD TVs in a hall packed with people (OK pre Covid!!) is simply a no no - too dangerous.

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Thank you for sharing your views. It’s interesting to find out how we all approach this.

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I’ve been giving this quite a bit of thought.

And after Thursday’s session about Adult Learners (notes), and particularly different methods for designing learning experiences, such as ADIDS, I was wondering if we could come up with our own simple method for fixers to attempt to follow.

Activity: The session begins with an activity that is connected to the topic of the session. The activity should introduce the topic to the participants that is informed by their own contexts and experiences.

Discussion : In this part of your session, everyone talks about what they thought of the activity they just completed. The discussion should aim to unearth reflections based on the activity and distill learnings based on the participant’s own experiences.

Input : The facilitator presents on issues, sub-topics and more advanced concepts related to focus of the session. This is where content related to the facilitator’s own experience and learning can be introduced.

Deepening : In technical training, this is usually the hands-on segment of a session. This is where the participants will get to put what they are learning to use.

Synthesis : A good training habit is to always summarise the session.

Could we create our own acronym, or skeleton process for engaging participant-learners at events? (Recognising that it will not always be appropriate, but would make for an ideal starting point?)


Hi, it’s Mend It

From our experience of repairing at 85 community repair events in Victoria, Australia most offer a free service once a month. There is not much one-on-one teaching that happens. Why? Most events are busy and to get through the numbers attending time is limited to troubleshooting and hopefully fixing items.

Danny has had mostly women express an interest in helping him pull items a part or wanting to hold something for him. He will explain to them what he’s doing.

Karen has booked a few people in to show them how to use their sewing machines but mostly mending of textiles is done by the mender because of time limitations and quantity of garments that come in.

With community repair events happening monthly or bimonthly this is not enough to take away from local business. And most of the items we fix or mend would have ended up being recycled or land filled had it not been for free repair.

We can say no to items and we can say no to teaching repair. Mend It’s mission is to raise awareness of reduce, reuse and repair and fixing across the table from someone, maybe with kids or partner or both is a great way to subtlety promote these 3Rs to an engaged audience.

Karen+Danny Ellis
Mend It, Australia

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That is similar to my experience also and I like the 3 R’s approach emphasizing getting things done by example.

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From my own experience many approach the fixer event with a vue to a economic fix.
They may enjoy watching and listening to the dialogue going on (I LOVE this too), but they are not really interested in learning (of course this depends upon wether or not what skills we are using are relatable and not scarey to them).

I would estimate that we (my local fixer group) do not emphasize enough that we want you to take at least one new skill away from the event, even if you cannot learn about all that has been demonstrated immediately.

We regularly run out of time at events (Its mostly at our local library, so we get about a 4 hour window). On one occasion I took pity on a boy who had corrupted his hard drive by not shutting down the laptop properly. I don’t think that I made matters worse, but I couldn’t prove it. I ended up taking the laptop home and repairing it for him. It took nearly all weekend and the donation that the fixer group received to help with expenses was in no way proportionate to the amount of time and effort required.

Moving forward with pc related repairs we have decided to refer people to guides, even if that means having to write new ones.

Thankfully this was the exception and not the norm.

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Forgot to mention that at community repair events sometimes there is repair businesses who volunteer. And many events have the front table displaying repair and mending businesses by promoting their calling cards.

Mend It will refuse items that take considerable time and/or could be fixed by a local business. An example is a person who brings in a garment for refashioning involving considerable fitting and alternation.